iPhone: The $1,975 iPod
Apple's and AT&T's high-price gadget is a heartbreaking triumph of greed over genius
Every living thing knows about iPhone. Apple and AT&T saw to that in their unprecedented campaign to prime demand for a mobile device that has been dubbed "revolutionary" and "game changing." After nine days doing nothing but living, breathing, and dissecting a 4GB iPhone, I am captivated by it. I'd challenge any gadget hound to find a more satisfying, status-elevating way to blow half a grand.
iPhone is good enough as a phone, a PDA, a media player, and a mobile browser to hit the sweet spot of those consumers who can afford the device, along with activation and monthly service fees. So, I say it again: If it's a gadget you're after, you're looking at a $499 wide-screen iPod with oodles of extras. If that's the perspective you bring to your consideration of iPhone, you have the right one. Declare yourself an early birthday.
Now it's time for consumers and gadget freaks to tune out because the rest of this review is aimed at those who rely on mobile devices as their lifeline to customers, clients, patients, management, team members, field staff, or hosted data and services. If that's you, understand that I know you came here because you want an iPhone. Apple went to great lengths to tick the feature table boxes that make the device look like everything a professional could want in a mobile device: cell phone, PDA, e-mail, Internet client, and media player.
iPhone fulfills the media player role well — although surprisingly not as well in some regards as a less costly iPod and not leagues better than a smartphone. It fulfills its secondary role, PDA, about as well as a BlackBerry. For phone, mobile messaging, and Internet access, iPhone will get you worked up but let you down once you get to needing it.
The unhappy fact is that for all the glamorous marketing and positioning, iPhone turns out to be the worst $1,975 investment (iPhone plus two years minimum, mandatory service) you could make in mobile communications. If you put that kind of money into a BlackBerry, Treo, Windows Mobile, or Symbian device, you will be blown away by what a genuine professional mobile handset can do for you, out of the box, through incremental improvement by the manufacturer and wireless operator, and extension by downloadable third-party software.
If the iPhone circus opened your eyes to the possibilities offered by high-end mobile devices, that's a good thing. Read this review, realize that what iPhone does is done well by other devices, too, and understand that iPhone's limitations with regard to professional use aren't present in competing devices, even those sold by AT&T.